Hang-gliding over Fort Fun-ston Bluffs, San Francisco. |Lee Foster, Free Lance Photographers Guild)
Hang-gliding over Fort Fun-ston Bluffs, San Francisco. |Lee Foster, Free Lance Photographers Guild)
feeling is so common because most people doubt their own worth and fear their abilities are not sufficient to meet the demands of life. Needing drugs to feel high confirms such fears. In any case, feeling guilty can't be good.
Of course, nondrug highs can present the same problems. People who arc dependent on falling in love are equally at the mercy of outside forces. Many individuals get a rush from making money, and their lives are consumed in its pursuit. One variation on this theme is addiction to gambling. We have seen fanatical joggers who experience severe mental and physical discomfort if circumstances prevent them from running for even a day — a kind of withdrawal syndrome painful to them and those around them. If the only effective way you have of getting high is downhill skiing or hang-gliding, you are going to have to spend as much time and money getting high as any serious drug user, and will expose yourself to equal or greater physical risk. There are men who get their greatest highs from killing; some of them find acceptable roles in society as professional soldiers, others become criminals and terrorists.
The goal should be to learn how to get high in ways that do not hurt yourself or others, and that do not necessarily require huge expenditures of time or money for special materials and equipment. Furthermore, you should be able to get high in enough different ways so that you can have the experience wherever you are, even if your external resources are minimal. You should also be willing to experiment with new methods of getting high as you mature and change.
Meditation, chanting, prayer, communing with nature, playing music, and artistic expression of all sorts are especially attractive ways of changing consciousness because they require little outside oneself. This is not to say that you shouldn't play polo if playing polo gets you high, but it would be useful to have some simpler, cheaper method in your repertory as well.
Ways of changing consciousness without drugs do not work as fast or as powerfully as popping a pill; to master them you may have to invest some time and effort. Many people may have little motivation to acquire these skills, especially since society neither admits the value of other modes of consciousness nor teaches us practical ways to achieve them. People who use drugs regularly may have to work especially hard to get high in other ways, because they often grow accustomed to the physical sensations of their drugs and consider them necessary components of the experience. People who use dilute forms of drugs infrequently and by mouth will find it easier to appreciate more subtle changes than people who put more concentrated drugs into their bodies more directly and more often, because they will not have learned to identify highs with intense pharmacological effects.
If getting high by simple methods takes more initial work, it may be worth it in the long run, because the simple methods do not fail with repeated use. In fact, methods requiring no external aids become more effective with practice. People who exercise, meditate, or do yoga to get high usually report that their experiences get better and better over time, which is a great contrast to the reports of heavy users of drugs.
There are so many ways to change consciousness that it is not worth trying to list them. Methods that work for some people may leave others cold. We know people who have learned to get high through Sufi dancing — a grown-up version of the spinning children love — and others who find this produces nothing more than motion sickness. Contact sports give some people terrific highs, but offend the sensibilities of others. Some methods may have more followers or seem more glamorous, but the only issue of any importance is whether they work for you.
As we have noted, people also take drugs for other reasons than getting high, and alternatives exist for these as well. For instance, it isn't necessary to take drugs to treat disease; many drugless systems of therapy exist, such as acupuncture, massage, and regulation of diet. Moods can be altered and performance improved by changing patterns of eating, sleeping, and exercise. Creativity can be stimulated by traveling, reading books, talking to people, and having new experiences. You can explore your mind with the aid of psychotherapy, hypnosis, or writing or singing about your inner experiences. Since the use of drugs has become so habitual in connection with certain activities (a glass of wine with dinner, a joint before a movie), it may be hard for some people to imagine life without them. The fact is, however, that if people are determined enough, they can eliminate drugs from their lives and never miss them.
For all of the talk about alternatives to drugs, precious little is in print on the subject.
The Book of Highs: 250 Methods for Altering Your Consciousness Without Drugs by Edward Rosenfeld (New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1973) is a unique compilation of practical techniques and further references. See also Richard Seymour and David E. Smith, Drugfree: A Unique, Positive Approach
Speaking in tongues makes me high. It makes me experience an altered state of consciousness. It lets me glimpse another reality — infinite realities — beyond the scope of my "normal" state of consciousness. — thirty-year-old housewife to Staying Off Alcohol and Other Drugs (New York: Facts on File, 1987).
Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space by Robert Masters and Jean Houston (New York: Viking, 1972) is a manual of exercises in guided fantasy and trance states. The authors have written extensively about psychedelic experiences and are well qualified to discuss altered states of consciousness.
A similar book is Passages: A Guide for Pilgrims of the Mind by Marriane S. Andersen and Louis M. Savary (New York: Harper & Row, 1972). Robert S. de Ropp's The Master Game: Pathways to Higher Consciousness Beyond the Drug Experience (New York: Delta, 1968) is an excellent book, also intended as a practical guide.
Alternate States of Consciousness edited by Norman E. Zin-berg (New York: Free Press, 1977) is a collection of interesting articles by experts in this new field of research; it is more theoretical than practical. Finally, Andrew Weil's The Marriage of the Sun and Moon: A Quest for Unity in Consciousness (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980) gives firsthand accounts of various non-drug highs and points out their relationship to drug experiences.
The subiect of drugs produces strong emotional reactions in many people, as we have frequently noted. Given that fact, we anticipate that our book will provoke some controversy. The controversy will probably center on the question of whether giving this information to young people will encourage them to try or to use drugs. We would like to address that question head-on.
The truth about drugs cannot do harm. It may offend sensibilities and disturb those who do not want to hear it but it cannot hurt people. On the other hand, false information can and does lead people to hurt themselves and others.
Our intention is not to encourage drug use by anyone, nor is it to discourage drug use. As we wrote at the very beginning, young people (and adults, for that matter) must decide for themselves which drugs, if any, to use and which to reiect. We strongly recommend adopting alternatives to drugs, and we strongly recommend learning to use drugs wisely rather than falling into habits of excess, dependence, and abuse.
People make decisions on the basis of the information available to them. The more accurate the information, the better their decisions will be. We have worked hard to present balanced information that is as accurate as our best efforts can determine. We have not tried to make any drug attractive in our selection of facts.
If we have played down concerns about some drugs — say, the health hazards of marijuana — we have done so because they are products of bias and not in accord with our experience or compatible with the results of good scientific inquiry. In the end, such exaggeration of the dangers of marijuana leads more people to try the drug and more people to abuse it. We have countered those misconceptions by emphasizing what we see as a real danger of marijuana: the ease of sliding into a dependent relationship with it by smoking it unconsciously and excessively.
If we have stressed the ill effects of accepted drugs — say, those of coffee or antihistamines — we have done so because they do accord with good scientific evidence and with our experience, and because we worry that ignorance of these hazards results in widespread overuse with attendant consequences on physical and mental health.
In short, we sincerely believe that the information we have presented in these pages is reliable and will enable people to make intelligent choices about the use of drugs, which should help to prevent drug abuse before it starts.
Permit us to repeat the most important points we have made:
There are no good or bad drugs, only good or bad uses of drugs. Drug abuse is not any use of a disapproved substance; abuse is the use of any substance in ways that impair physical or mental health or social functioning and productivity. Abuse develops from bad relationships with drugs, and learning to recognize such relationships early is one key to preventing abuse. Bad relationships with drugs begin with ignorance or loss of awareness of the nature of a substance and its effects and overuse of it to the point of losing the initial desired effect. Overuse, in turn, leads to difficulty in leaving the drug alone and to eventual impairment of health and productivity.
People must learn to look at and analyze their own and others' relationships with drugs. Recognizing drug abuse is not a matter of searching a child's room for cigarette papers or looking for dilated eyes or certain styles of dress or types of behavior. It involves the ability to know dependence in oneself and others, to watch how experiences with drugs change over time, to observe changes in health and look for correlations with drug use, to sec whether drug habits interfere with work at school or on the job, to see whether they promote associations with undesirable people. This kind of analysis is a lot harder than searching rooms for cigarette papers.
Learning to recognize drug abuse is important, because treatment is not easy, and the earlier a problem comes to light, the better chance there is of correcting it. Prevention of drug abuse is always much easier than treatment. As we have said before, prevention depends on being informed, being aware, and exploring alternatives to drugs. For those who decide to use drugs, preven-
181 Final Words tion depends also on associating with people who use drugs wisely rather than with people who abuse them, and on making intelligent choices about what substances to use and how to use them.
Treatment is another matter. Even with the best help possible, the only alternative for many abusers is to give up their drugs forever and admit they have lost the chance to be in good relationships with those substances. In any case, treatment must begin with an abuser's own recognition that abuse exists and is a problem, and it will depend for its success on an individual's motivation to change. (Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and other such self-help groups take this same position.) A drug abuser who is insufficiently motivated will not be cured by any approach.
Treating addiction often requires outside help: from doctors, counselors, clergy, and other professionals trained to advise people in trouble. Finding needed help is rarely easy, since some of the people most eager to work with drug abusers are in no way qualified to do the job. Above all, never put yourself or a child, relative, or friend in treatment for a drug problem with anyone you do not trust or consider fully informed and qualified, no matter what degree or certification the person holds.
Drug-abuse treatment centers are often staffed by ex-addicts. Such counselors may not be the best people to go to for help in improving relationships with drugs, since they failed to form good ones themselves. Many reformed abusers behave like self-righteous fanatics when they appear in public: they inflame discussions about drugs, polarize audiences, and obstruct the drug-education process. It is also worth considering that the drug-abuse treatment profession has a vested interest in seeing drug abuse continue; its members make their living from the problem.
It is uncertain whether going to doctors for help is the best course of action. Medical schools do not teach much about the effects of psychoactive drugs. Unless physicians take the trouble to inform themselves, they are as likely as others to propagate untruths. Doctors have caused a great deal of the drug abuse of the past hundred years by carelessly prescribing opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and tranquilizers without having clear ideas of the nature of those substances. Also, doctors themselves may be in bad relationships with alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and other stimulants and depressants legally available to them.
In sum, finding reliable help with drug problems is not simple. You have to shop around, ask questions, and use your own judgment. Do not hesitate to ask a prospective counselor to explain to you his or her attitudes toward drugs and recommendations for
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